Planners: Rockville needs flexibility for future growth -- Gazette.Net







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Rockville officials say it’s time to rethink their borders and consider where the city might expand in the future.

Gaithersburg’s annexation of a Sears property south of Shady Grove Road this past summer prompted Rockville’s Planning Commission to study whether the city should revise its Maximum Expansion Limits, which determine where it can expand and annex property if property owners request it. Some Rockville officials said at the time they had considered Shady Grove Road as the logical boundary between the two municipalities.

A Jan. 15 staff memo to the Rockville Planning Commission recommended looking at the Maximum Expansion Limits around the entire city, however. A few residents of areas to the southwest of Rockville’s city limits have inquired about annexation into Rockville, the memo said. Some people in that area, mostly outside the current MELs, have problems with their septic systems and might like to get on the city’s water and sewer systems, the memo said.

David Levy, chief of long-range planning, said he knows of three people who have asked about the potential of annexing their property into Rockville.

“They’re not all on the border, but they’re near Rockville — near enough to consider that Rockville might be an answer to some of their water and sewer issues,” he said.

When Rockville last set its MELs, no one in the area had approached the city about annexation, Levy said. Now that some residents might be interested in moving their property within the city’s borders, however, Rockville officials are willing to look into expansion in that direction.

Revising Rockville’s MELs would not annex properties, but it would mean that property owners inside the MELs could request to be annexed into the city.

Manisha Tewari, a planner with the City of Rockville, said MELs matter.

“A city may annex a property only if it is included in the city’s designated growth areas,” she said during a Jan. 23 Planning Commission meeting. “... A limited MEL restricts a city’s growth options.”

In addition to looking north to the land between Rockville and Gaithersburg and to the residential areas along Rockville’s southwest border, Levy said, officials also will look at areas where redevelopment is expected, such as near the White Flint and Shady Grove Metro stations.

“We are going to look at the entire boundary of Rockville, all around it, and see where Rockville might be interested in entertaining folks who are interested in coming to the city,” Levy said. “... We want to make sure that we as a city have sufficient flexibility to entertain requests.”

Revising the city’s potential for future growth is a long process. To alter Rockville’s MELs, officials would have to conduct months of discussion and analysis, have two public hearings and have both the Planning Commission and the Mayor and Council approve the revisions before getting the final go-ahead from the Maryland Department of Planning. A staff memo anticipates the process taking until May of 2014.